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For me, carbo-loading is a lifestyle. You’d honestly think I’m constantly training for a marathon (I’m not), but actually I just love pasta. Luckily, I found myself a man who enjoys a good ol’ Lady and the Tramp-style noodle binge as much as I do. I mean, how could you not love pasta?! I could make it every night of the week and never repeat the shape or sauce, creating an infinite loop of starchy success.
This recipe was created as a way to create a quick and easy weeknight meal, while stretching every ounce of flavor from each ingredient. Case in point: kale stems. If you’ve been throwing away your kale stems then you’re tossing a whole lot of flavor right into the trash (not to mention money!). Listen, I get it. They’re tough and fibrous, and take longer to cook than the leaves themselves. However, with a little TLC, their true potential begins to shine. Once you’ve ripped off the leaves, follow my lead and char the stems whole in a heavy-bottomed pot. This does two things: the stems get beautifully smoky and complex in flavor, while also par-cooking them. Once charred, you can thinly slice them and add them with the sliced leaves to get tender.
To pair with the toothsome kale, fresh chorizo adds some heat and a hint more smoke. Throw in some thyme, a ton of cheese and some lemon (all ingredients I always have on hand!) and dinner is ready in 20 minutes. Even though we’re two people, I’ve never not cooked a full pound of pasta, so you better believe I wasn’t about to start. (Just a friendly reminder that any recipe can be a single portion if you believe in yourself.) I pass on the predictable penne in favor of gemelli, the twisty, sexier cousin of fusilli, but you could swap in any short pasta you have on hand!
Now get charring, since the fight against food waste never tasted so good!
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 pound dry gemelli pasta
- 1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and reserved, leaves thinly sliced (8 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces chorizo, fresh, casing removed
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1 cup grated Grana Padano cheese
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally until al dente, 12-13 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 cups of pasta water.
Meanwhile, heat a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add kale stems and cook, turning as needed, until lightly charred, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to cutting board to cool, then thinly slice and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium-high heat and add oil, followed by chorizo and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up into small pieces, until golden brown, 7-8 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until slightly golden, 2 minutes. Add kale leaves and chopped stems to pot with thyme and salt, then cook until wilted, 3-4 minutes. Add cooked pasta and reserved pasta water, then stir constantly while slowly adding grated cheese until a thick and creamy sauce forms, 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in lemon zest and juice, then adjust seasoning with salt. Divide between bowls, garnish with more grated cheese and thyme leaves, then serve.